For our last dinner in Montreal we decided to hit the St-Hubert that was very close to the hotel. This gave me an opportunity to compare Quebec’s favourite rotisserie chicken restaurant to Swiss Chalet which is the favourite across the rest of Canada.
Both Swiss Chalet and St-Hubert are primarily rotisserie chicken restaurants, with each chain offering a fairly diverse menu with ribs and roast beef as well as more standard chain options like burgers, soups and salads.
St-Hubert’s first location was opened in Montreal in 1951 while Swiss Chalet began in Toronto in 1954. Since 2016, both chains are owned by Recipe Unlimited (formerly known as Cara Operations Limited). Despite the common ownership, they seem to have left the two businesses alone to continue to operate as rivals with their own unique traits.
Historically the St-Hubert vs. Swiss Chalet rivalry is very much a regional/cultural thing with St-Hubert dominating the French-speaking areas of Canada in Quebec and New Brunswick and Swiss Chalet being a fixture in the rest of the country.
Breaking it down
Here’s the pros and cons as I saw it last night. Suffice to say, it was a close competition and I suspect that those who grew up on Swiss Chalet will see it the same way I did, while those who are used to St-Hubert will disagree. Welcome to Canada.
Where it’s a tie:
- The chicken. It’s basically the same, although the skin at Swiss Chalet is maybe a bit crispier and has more seasoning on it making for a deliciously salty experience. It also looks a little nicer in my opinion. That said, the chicken meat is basically identical tasting although I could argue that Swiss Chalet has a slight edge here.
Where Swiss Chalet wins over St-Hubert:
- Chalet Sauce is far better than St-Hubert sauce. The St-Hubert sauce is more of a thin chicken gravy. There’s a real chicken gravy flavour to it and it lacks the thickness to properly coat either the fries or the chicken when dipped. Chalet Sauce has more spice and flavour overall and from a dipping perspective, it’s clearly superior.
- The fries at Swiss Chalet are generally better. I see the fries as a sauce delivery system, and Chalet fries deliver in this regard. They can be mushy if you get takeout or delivery, but they are a bit thicker cut than the St-Hubert fries and more potato-y overall. That said, this was a close battle and St-Hubert fries are quite good.
- The roll at Swiss Chalet beats the bun at St-Hubert. This isn’t even a close competition. The Swiss roll is a proper little roll that delivers a great dipping experience. The bun at St-Hubert is basically a toasted cheap hamburger bun bottom.
Where St-Hubert wins over Swiss Chalet:
- The coleslaw is included and excellent. You can pick between traditional (vinegar) and creamy (with mayo). Both were good and you get the coleslaw with the meal along with your choice of side. I had the opportunity to try both varieties and while I preferred the traditionaly (nicely vinegary and tasty), the creamy type was also good. If you’ve had the creamy coleslaw at Swiss Chalet, they are very similar, but St-Hubert wins here because you get the coleslaw with your meal as a bonus side.
- Sandwich options are better at St-Hubert. Swiss Chalet offers a tasty Chicken on a Kaiser sandwich or a hot chicken sandwich with gravy. St-Hubert ups the sandwich game with a really good club sandwich on toasted bread with generous amounts of rotisserie chicken (dark or white meat).
- The ambience/style of the restaurant is better at St-Hubert. Neither are a fine dining experience, but Swiss Chalet feels more like a fast-food place than St-Hubert which advertises itself as a resto-bar.
- The delivery cars at St-Hubert are fun. They have a fleet of yellow and red Toyota Yaris hatchbacks with red chicken combs on the roof. Swiss Chalet generally shows up in a rusted out ten-year-old winter beater with mismatched tires.
The final judgement
The chicken is pretty similar although I give the edge to Swiss Chalet for flavour. The fries are close, but again, Swiss Chalet wins by a small margin. The “free” coleslaw is a nice touch at St-Hubert, but in the end it’s just coleslaw and if you really want that, you can get some for a reasonable cost at Swiss Chalet.
The real difference maker is the sauce and while St-Hubert sauce is decent, Swiss Chalet sauce is a national treasure and for that reason Swiss Chalet wins.